Syracuse Child Custody Modification Lawyer
Child custody decisions are challenging for many couples seeking a separation or divorce. Additionally, once a child custody plan is in place, changing the arrangements can be a frustrating and time-consuming ordeal. However, children’s needs change as they grow; your capabilities and availability – or the co-parent’s – might change, too. Child custody arrangements require changes based upon each party’s needs.
If a Court imposed child custody Order needs to be updated, or you want to preserve your current Order when faced with a co-parent that seeks to change it, you should reach out to a Syracuse child custody modification lawyer. A Syracuse child custody modification lawyer could help you draft a new agreement if you wish to change the terms of the Order. If your current Order is working for you, an attorney may push your co-parent to prove how a new custody arrangement would serve your children’s best interests. Whatever the case, our dedicated child custody attorneys are standing by to help you fight for the best outcome for you and your children.
“Child’s Best Interest” Standard Always Applies
In an ideal situation, co-parents will agree on modifications to a Court-imposed child custody Order. In that case, the co-parents could work together to draft a new agreement. However, a modified custody arrangement does not take effect just because the co-parents agree. A Court must review the agreed upon terms and issue an amended custody Order.
A judge must determine whether a revised custody agreement serves the child’s best interests. The Court will consider the child’s age, their specific needs, each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs at this time, each parent’s mental and physical health, the child’s preference, and other factors. The older the child is, the more weight the child’s preference has.
When co-parents agree upon a modification, a Syracuse attorney may help draft the agreement with an emphasis on how the child custody modification benefits the children. The children’s needs will always outweigh the co-parents’ needs in the Court’s analysis. It is therefore critical to draft modification language accordingly.
Proving Substantial Change to Justify Custody Modification
If co-parents do not agree on terms of a proposed custody arrangement modification/s, the party seeking the change must petition the Court to modify the Order. New York Domestic Relations Law § 240 governs child custody issues. A Court will not consider a modification unless the petitioning parent can prove there has been a substantial change in their circumstances.
Some events that a Court might consider sufficient to justify modifying a custody order include but are not limited to:
- A parent’s home environment is deemed unsafe due to neglect, addiction, criminal activity, or mental health concerns;
- Incident/s of domestic violence occurred in one of the homes;
- A parent’s refusal to cooperate with the existing Order;
- A co-parent attempts to alienate the child/ren from the other co-parent;
- A significant change in the child’s health or school performance is noted;
- A significant change in the child’s schedule, such as traveling with a sports team or entering a challenging academic environment, is anticipated;
- A co-parent develops a debilitating illness; and,
- Loss of a co-parent job or home.
If the Court is satisfied that the co-parent’s reasons for seeking the modification are legally sufficient, it will review the proposed change according to the child’s best interest standard. A Syracuse attorney will develop and present to the Court factual, child-centered evidence supporting the co-parent’s goals regarding the custody modification petition.
Emergency Custody Orders
In a true emergency, a co-parent is able to apply for an ex-parte custody Order. “Ex-parte” means an the Order is made without notice to the other party. The parent’s attorney would file a motion with the Court seeking an ex-parte Order to change custody, explaining the emergency and why it is impossible or dangerous to give the other co-parent advance notice of the Order. If the Court grants the Order, it would give the co-parent making the application the relief sought temporarily, and would schedule a hearing to allow the other party/co-parent to contest the temporary Order.
Applications for ex-parte Orders are only appropriate in urgent situations. Courts are able to impose sanctions on a party who misuses the process.
Examples of true emergencies might include situations in which the custodial parent:
- Has Become homeless;
- Is dating someone on the sex offender registry
- Is having a psychotic episode or significant mental health breakdown;
- Has abandoned the child/ren;
- Has threatened to or is prepared to leave the jurisdiction with the child without permission; or,
- Is actively abusing illegal drugs in the child/ren’s presence.
In some cases, involving police or Child Protective Services (CPS) could be the fastest way to ensure a child’s safety. However, emergency removal by police and CPS can be traumatic for the child, and CPS involvement will continue for some time in most cases. A Syracuse child custody modification attorney may advise a parent about the implications of this strategy.
Trust a Syracuse Child Custody Modification Attorney With Your Case
If you and your co-parent have a custody Order in place but one of you wants to change it, you need assistance from an experienced legal professional. Even when you and your co-parent agree on a change, working with a knowledgeable attorney could streamline the process. To schedule your complimentary consultation with a Syracuse child custody modification lawyer, call our office today.